BOBCOM is a brand new musical social network, What? Like M-FLOW? No, more like an evolution of the only feature anyone still uses on Myspace, band/artist profiles with music hosting, crossed with a retail platform like iTunes; only independent and with each artist having full control.
I had a chat with the founder Michael Feeney Callan to find out what his vision for the service is and what gave him the inspiration…
Hey Mike, hows things?
Good good, just really busy at the minute.
Let’s dive right in, how did BOBCOM get started? What was the idea behind it?
It originated after I worked for Robert Redford (The American actor) for a number of years on essentially his memoirs, which is out in the spring. I spent alot of time at Sundance ranch in Utah, which is off course all the activity to do with independent film. Redford developed it in 1980 with a view to have it as a place for a lot of disenfranchised writers, filmakers and artists to go. When I came back from that marathon trip I came back and wanted to do the same for musicians. In the same way that Retford and his friends had built up an alternative to standard film distribution, I wanted to do the same for musicians based in the UK.
It’s all based on two things, firstly, transparency – we are the in age of Wikileaks and investigative journalism, so it has to be unique, honest and advantageous to the user via transparency. Secondly it needs to be a constant source of tools for its users. Not free iPhones or random trips, real opportunities that build careers.
Much like your Abbey Road recording session?
Yes, but I think our next step is going to be even better, we have a Channel 4 Tv show, where we go all over the UK and meet these bands. Then shortly after that we have another one and I have all sorts of ideas about getting bands to jam with all sorts of creative performers. It’s really to create a tool, where there is no judges, no moderators and the community decides everything. The ambition for the thing, which is going to be a monsterous thing to pull off, is that there is no me or anyone that dips in and says there’s a talent, it’s un-editorialized.
To play devils advocate a bit here, do you feel there is a chance people may hack that concept? Recently we saw it in DJ Mags top 100, where several Dj’s were been investigated about manipulating the polling process to gain more fans, Are you worried bands might start to try and cheat their way up polls & charts?
That’s a great question, its one of the challenges we face and one of those questions about the internet in general. The internet was designed as an equalizing tool and the fact is that this sort of thing goes on and this type of skulduggery takes place, it’s pretty endemic through entertainment and the industry anyway, i’m sure everyone has heard stories of these types of things happening on American Idol & X-factor and all the compromising manoeuvres that go on. We’re aware of it and we think if we’re transparent enough and intentive enough, part of the joy of this process will be to prove how honest and open we are and how democratic the web really is.
At the end of the day, it will get people talking and with the level of democracy you talk about on the net, these things tend to work themselves out. Like when Myspace started to suffer, you had artists like Tila Tequila (terrible singer, but topped alot their charts) but people learned to ignore her.
Thats it, it sometimes annoys me how condescending the mass media can be towards the intelligence of the public and I think people can understand the difference between contrived and developed acts that look very shiny and perfect (in different ways) and real talent. We always said, we’re trying to find the next Bob Dylan, people with something to say. A lot of people said that your gonna get a lot of junk and a lot of random things, but I have genuine faith (the same as Retford had with Sundance) in the basic intelligence and instincts of people.
Where do see the site going in the future? Do you want that previous Myspace stranglehold on new bands? They buy instruments, they get a BOBCOM… or do you see it as a future tool, they gig, they record and then they look at trying to compete on BOBCOM?
It’s hugely alternative what we are doing, and there is a lot of people who are so disenfranchised with the way the industry works and what we want to create is a digital scribble board for things to come together. We are looking for artists, photographers and filmakers to come together. We want to expand the sites scope,we want to also find the next Spike Jonze.
Its been 100’s of hours creating this service and the ideas behind it. What i’d like it to be in 5 years time is a catch-all for creatives. An empowerment tool for writers, photographers and especially bands to use.
That’s what I was hoping you were going to say. A couple of years down the line you might get a band who get voted up the charts and they hook up with a photographer they find on the site for press shots and they get tied up with the a revolutionary video maker, all connected through the site.
That genuinely means alot, it’s day one and i’ve had very little feedback so far from the outside world, just from the community. The heart and sole of it is my commitment and beliefs and I’m a writer myself and I want to help. I don’t believe any kid sat tuning his guitar in his room can do it alone, there is certain points where they need help and we know the way the industry works, you get the help,but you sell your soul. The internet is an amazing tool, but its gone a bit pear shaped, I really believe in artists networking and creating this idea of self empowerment.
Cool, I’ll let y0u go anyway, I hope this becomes something major for you and I hope you succeed, because your heart seems to be in the right place, and its not just another fly by night music service with a brand name tagged on it.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, your one of the first to interview me about this all, so I’m glad your intrigued by it all.